Think Ink

Did you know that there are many different kinds of ink, each with unique features that enhance the writing experience?

At Zebra, we’re serious about making the best pens possible, which means our Ink Lab team is always testing, innovating and perfecting ink formulas. We’d like to help you learn more about the characteristics of pens, ink types, and terminology, so the pen you choose delivers the best performance for your needs.

Iink beaker

Pen Terminology

Pens also have various characteristics that affect the way the pen performs – line thickness, amount of ink used, drying time, and shelf life.
Here are some “pen insider” terms, explained.

Point Size

Do you want a fine line, thick line or something in between? This is determined by the “point size,” which refers to the diameter of the nib, or tip, of a pen. The sizes are listed in millimeters, and the lower the number, the finer the line. For example: 0.5mm is somewhat fine, 0.7mm is the most commonly used, and 1.6mm is quite bold.

Write out

This is just another way of saying capacity, or life expectancy, of the pen and indicates how long can you write with a particular pen before the ink cartridge runs out.

Lay down

Describes how much ink flows out and is applied to the writing surface when writing. As you might guess, the bolder the line (higher point size), the greater the amount of ink is laid down.

Dry time

Just what you think: the amount of time it takes for ink to dry on the writing surface. Pens that lay down a lot of ink (see above) take longer to dry. Other factors that lengthen dry time are: the type paper used, the amount of pressure applied by the pen user, and type of ink. Metallic inks tend to dry more slowly. Most people want ink that dries pretty fast.


If you remember your science class, you know that fluid viscosity refers more or less to the thickness of a fluid, and in pens, it refers to how easily and smoothly the ink flows from the pen. You want a low viscosity ink to get the smoothest writing experience.

Oil-Based Ink

Found in ballpoint pens, oil based ink doesn’t smudge, lasts longer, and is a good value. It’s ideal for everyday, heavy usage. If you are writing all day long, this is the pen for you.

Water-Based Ink (Gel)

So smooth! No skipping and available in bold, highly pigmented colors, this water-based gel flows freely. Fun to write with, gel pens let you express yourself with confidence.

Rapid Dry Ink

Hate smudges? With our breakthrough Rapid Dry Ink technology, ink dries in just a second on most surfaces, so it’s a favorite of left handers. Super smooth and available in many vibrant colors, it is perfect for creative art projects or everyday use.

Check-Safe Ink

Peace of mind. Our acid free, archival quality check-safe ink cannot be “washed” off, which means you don’t have to worry about check fraud. Also ideal for artistic creations and journal writing.